To pay debt to Bangabandhu

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 14 Aug 2017, 18:12:23 | Updated : 14 Aug 2017, 18:14:44

To pay debt to Bangabandhu

Our nation can pay back the debt to Bangabandhu only if we love our people and uphold the ideals he fought for in the truest sense of the terms, writes Maswood Alam Khan
We all know death is inevitable. Still, we don't want death to visit us anytime soon, even when we are frail and shrivelled with age at the fag-end of life. We never ready ourselves to pay our debt to nature. But there is a category of people who don't really see the difference between 'dying now' and 'dying a few decades later'. When such people are threatened with assassination, or face imminent death by hanging, they even welcome it! They are rare humans. They carry the DNA of the brave.

Which category of people did Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman belong to? How great was the heart inside the chest of this towering figure of 5 feet 11 inches' height? How did Bangabandhu view death? Why didn't he care about his personal security?

In an interview on the BBC the famous English journalist Sir David Frost asked Sheikh Mujibur Rahman: "What is your greatest strength?" Without waiting a second he replied: "I love my people." The next immediate question was: "Your greatest weakness?" The instant reply was: "I love them too much." Such love-soaked replies can be pronounced only by a statesman whose heart truly stretches out to help the hapless, shelter the homeless.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a soft-hearted leader when people needed his love and at the same time he was a ferocious lion who roared when Bangladeshis needed protection from Pakistani aggressions. One of his prime attributes as a charismatic leader was his extraordinary capability of inspiring people for any sacrifice. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had no parallel in the whole world who could attract a million people to his rallies and hold them spellbound. No contemporary leader in the subcontinent could match him in terms of political leadership. He was the great lyricist of politics. He had always been a larger than life character.

That Bangladesh would not have been independent if Sheikh Mujibur Rahman didn't issue the clarion call to people at the Ramna Race Course Maidan, now rechristened Suhrawardy Uddayan,  to jump up for their liberation on the historic day of March 07, 1971 is a universal truth. His declaration that "The struggle this time is the struggle for our emancipation. The struggle this time is the struggle for our independence!" on that momentous afternoon will forever reverberate as a signature phrase reminding generations of Bangladeshi people of how their motherland was liberated from the clutches of the aggressors.

Bangabandhu's strength of leadership was, paradoxically, also his weakness. History has witnessed that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was often carried away by his extra-soft emotion. He was too weak to guard against overconfidence. Though he was declared 'Father of the Nation', in many cases he behaved more like a mother. He had forgiven many of his diehard enemies.

Bangabandhu had twice ignored Indian Intelligence's alert against the bloody putsch of August 15, in 1975. "These are my own children and they will not harm me," Bangabandhu reportedly told a top officer of the RAW, the Indian intelligence agency, who met him in December 1974 to warn him against a conspiracy. Another senior officer of RAW once again came to Dhaka in March 1975 who gave Bangabandhu detailed plans of some deranged army officers who were plotting to overthrow his government, as reported by a local daily.  But again, Bangabandhu paid no heed. He would not perhaps have been assassinated along with most of his family members, if only he had paid a little attention to the warning. His overconfidence on his so-called 'own children' was too pricy.

It was in 1968, I was then in the first year in Dhaka College, when I met a lanky six-footer classmate with hazel eyes: Sheikh Kamal, son of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. There was hardly a student in Dhaka College who was not Sheikh Kamal's friend, or who was not treated by Kamal at least a 'samucha' with tea at the college canteen. We were mesmerised by his charismatic leadership quality. On many an occasion, he entertained some of us with 'Kabab' in one of those eateries inside New Market.

Agartala Conspiracy Case was already framed against his father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then Chief of Awami League, and 33 retired civil and army officials for their alleged involvement in a conspiracy to secede the Eastern wing from Pakistan with the help of the government of India. It was obvious that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would be hanged to death if the conspiracy case had been proven true. There were occasions we discussed the issue with Sheikh Kamal, who was confident that nothing could defeat his father. Ayub regime of Pakistan ultimately failed in hanging Bangabandhu on the gallows, because Bangladeshi people rescued him by unleashing an unprecedented political tsunami against the government in 1969.

The night of Dhaka city on August 15, 1975 was dark, deep and quiet. The birds didn't start singing as the dawn had not broken yet. Suddenly, birds screamed their lungs out. Neighbours on the Road 32 of Dhanmondi Residential Area at Dhaka awoke to some gunshots. After a while, the whole area turned into a place of brooding stillness, a deep silence descended there that was past understanding.

Attackers opened indiscriminate fire on Bangabandhu's residence. All the family members of Bangabandhu were dead: President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his wife Begum Mujib, their sons Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russell, daughters-in-law, and his brother Sheikh Naser.  Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's two daughters----Sheikh Hasina, now prime minister, and Sheikh Rehana----escaped the bloodbath as they were abroad. A new chapter was unfolded in the tumultuous history of Bangladesh.

The whole world was appalled at the tragedy. The barbarism left the whole nation shocked. Most people I met that day of carnage were speechless. The questions that everybody asked: How a human heart could conceive and create such a horrible event? How some people could kill a man who struggled all his life for the emancipation of their nation, loved his people whom he overconfidently often referred to as 'his children'? How could a soldier with a human heart press the trigger of his gun to kill Sheikh Russell, an 11-year old son of the Father of the Nation?

In the morning on August 15, I was listening on radio to an address by Khandoker Moshtaque Ahmed who declared himself as the President of Bangladesh immediately after the assassination of President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. I was wondering how one trusted friend of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman could so dramatically morph into his unbelievable foe! No one could fathom out why was the surprising reversal in friendship? Bangabandhu had a habit of taking anybody as 'his own man' or 'his own child'; he was perhaps charmed when on his return from jail in Pakistan, Moshtaque greeted him publicly with a kiss. Here again, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman failed to discern between friends and foes! The list of his making blunders is long.

A few days later, as I was standing in silence near the graveyard of Bangabandhu's family members at Banani, memories associated with Mujib family, specially with Sheikh Kamal, appeared in my mind, like cinematographic flashbacks: some incidents emerged vividly, some faded in and some faded out. One incident that I will never forget was when one day I asked Sheikh Kamal at the Dhaka College canteen: "Kamal, don't you feel helpless with your father spending most of his time in jails? Are not you scared that your father may one day be hanged to death?" His hazel eyes stared at me. After a pause, he said: "I got somehow used to it. But when I am lonely I feel the pain simmering deep inside my heart. Unless your father is in the same situation you can never sense the intensity of that pain."

On this day of National Mourning, wreaths will be placed at the portrait of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum. People from all walks of life will be observing this day with due respect and solemnity. The national flags will be lowered to half-mast on most of the private and public buildings. These rituals alone will not assuage the departed soul of Bangabandhu. Our nation can pay back the debt to Bangabandhu only if we love our people and uphold the ideals he fought for in the truest sense of the terms.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
Published by the Editor for International Publications Limited from Tropicana Tower (4th floor), 45, Topkhana Road, GPO Box : 2526 Dhaka- 1000 and printed by him from City Publishing House Ltd., 1 RK Mission Road, Dhaka-1000.
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